Nonprofit vet heads Annie B’s fund drive
Chico is full of nonprofit organizations helping people in need, but only one of them helps virtually everyone in need—and that’s why Lee Laney is now working for the North Valley Community Foundation.
If Laney’s name sound familiar, that’s because he’s been a fixture in the nonprofit community for many years—10 as director of ARC, 15 at the Work Training Center. Working for a community foundation, he said, is realizing a dream that he has had for many years.
“Community foundations are unique in that they benefit every aspect of the community,” Laney said, by raising funds and distributing them among all the eligible nonprofits.
Hired in mid-March as NVCF’s program officer, he’s the organization’s second full-time employee (the other is Executive Director Alexa Valavanis, whom Laney credits with doubling the size of the fund in just two years.)
“The unique thing about a community foundation is that we don’t feed the homeless, we don’t house seniors, but all of that is done through the organizations [we fund], and we provide training for nonprofits so that they can get the most out of the money that they have,” Laney said.
He’s hit the ground running, starting a new fundraising effort called “Annie B’s Community Drive.” Every year for the next five years, NVCF will grant $100,000 in matching funds for donations made to regional nonprofit organizations.
This year, the $100,000 will be distributed to match all of the donations that are received before Oct. 11, Laney explained. The money raised will benefit more than 100 organizations as decided by the donors. A list of recipient organizations and an online donation form can be viewed on NVCF’s site.
The program was spawned by an anonymous donor who is giving $50,000 per year for five years—NVCF will contribute the other $50,000—and asked that the program be modeled after a similar campaign in Jackson Hole, Wyo. The Old Bill event, as it’s called, has raised more than $45 million in the past 10 years.
Laney hopes Annie B’s will have a similar effect in the North Valley region. This area doesn’t have the wealth Jackson Hole has, but “if we can raise just 10 percent of that, we will have done well,” Laney said.
NVCF has been in existence for the past 18 years. Its purpose is to serve other nonprofit organizations by allocating funds that are often earmarked by the donors, who receive tax deductions for their contributions. NVCF is a fledgling community foundation. Some of the almost 700 community foundations nationwide are more than 100 years old and have endowments as large as $100 billion.
The organization began its life as Chico Community Fund but changed its name 10 years ago when it decided to serve Butte, Glenn, Tehama and Colusa counties.
Because the NVCF is still small, Laney said, he is excited about the opportunity to affect the future of the organization.
“I’m here on the ground floor of an organization that will become one of the most important institutions in our community,” Laney said. “I have more influence on the direction of this organization than others.”
One way Laney is hoping to make a difference in the near future is by securing more business sponsors for Annie B’s Community Drive through a promotion called Golden Ticket. The Golden Ticket program allows participating businesses to give certificates to customers worth $100, allowing the customer to choose which NVCP organization will benefit. Stores currently participating are Art Etc., Northern Star Mills, Olde Gold Estate Jewelry and Sports LTD.
Laney hopes Annie B’s will raise NVCF’s profile and support so that it is able to serve more nonprofits.
“Some organizations that have never asked for donations before are starting because of the grant,” Laney said.
One organization hopeful that Annie B’s will be a major source of income is Community Collaborative for Youth, the umbrella organization that contracts with several agencies, including high schools and the county juvenile hall, to work with high-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 18. CCY hopes to raise $12,000 this year and plans on Annie B’s to be its main fall fundraiser.
“There are a lot of people who don’t realize how much nonprofits help this community,” CCY’s Emily Alma said, “and this is a great opportunity to raise awareness.”